Saigon. Creative, passionate, enthusiastic, acutely aware, endlessly curious human.
My name is Anouska; I am not Russian, I have no Russian connections whatsoever, it can be a little awkward when I meet someone new, and they commit to jump in headfirst and communicate in Russian.
My parents were hippies so my sister and I got cool names.
I am almost 42 now, I can’t believe it, 41 is an age that I always thought was so grown up and yet I still feel like a child. Sometimes I am not sure how I am supposed to behave when I think about how old I am, it’s a very strange feeling.
I grew up in a place called Leigh-On-Sea, I had a wonderful childhood, my parents were the first ones to pop out a sprog, so I spent a lot of time socialising with adults and being presented with gifts.
Mum and Dad were (are) cool, when I was little Dad worked as a Granada TV repairman, and Mum worked down the Kersal (a nightclub/bar) ‘The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’ performed there once. Dad would take me to the beach in the mornings at the weekend so mum could have a lie-in, I loved the beach, the sea anything to do with it really.
We moved to Bedfordshire when I was six, I used to really miss the foghorn at nighttime, it helped me get off to sleep; I had no idea that I would be reunited with this familiar sound when I moved to Vietnam, it makes me very nostalgic.
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life as a teenager, I knew it had to be something creative but wasn’t sure what. I started going out clubbing and screwed up my A levels, fell in love with my other half (we are still together) and ended going back to college as a not very mature ‘mature student’ I mean I was 23; to study footwear. A few stressful years and sleepless nights later and I graduated with a First Class Degree and was ready to start my career.
It didn’t take long before I realised that being a footwear designer isn’t actually that creative unless you are one of a very lucky few. It’s all ‘copy this’ or do a version of that. When you combine that with the fact the footwear industry in the UK was dying at the time, I was in and out of miserable jobs for years until I finally ended up here in Vietnam.
I got here by accident, I end up in most places by mistake truth be told.
The South of Vietnam’s laid back approach to life, rules and timekeeping suits me very well; I can’t imagine going back to the sterility of the western world. I am learning Vietnamese, I am terrible at languages and this must be one of the most difficult languages. Thankfully, I have the most patient teacher and (now) friend who hasn’t given up on me yet.
For work I am a Futurist, I feel equal parts proud and cringe when I have to introduce this idea and job to people. It has people screeching:
‘OH MY GAWWWD HOW COOL’
Then they assemble around me waiting for me to reveal my secret. There is no secret. Do I have some kind of magical psychic powers? Not really, it’s more to do with being good at identifying patterns, and then using this data to give you, my customers, whoever wants to listen, a good indication of what is likely to happen next. Trend, Insight, Predictions; whatever you want to call it, all of which are backed up with extensive research. I guess it’s a result of having an acute (this can be painfully irritating as it’s very hard to switch off) awareness of my surroundings.
It also makes me obsessively detailed with everything, including myself and my personal endeavours. I am slowly trying to be less of a perfectionist but it’s a skill that’s hard to unlearn.
Trend forecasting is a very niche area to work in and although I would naturally forecast as part of the design process in all of my jobs, it was never my actual job, well not until I got here anyway. So it’s kind of a dream come true, and I worked hard to earn that dream.
I lead all the Art and Creative direction for our company; which is anything from interior design, to videos, to the website, to copywriting — you name it, I do it. It keeps me busy, creative and learning. That’s the way I like to be! I built an entire department and team from the ground up, none of this existed until I started work here, for that I am very proud.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made the travel part of my job rather difficult and I have been here in Vietnam for a really long time, which is so very odd, but there are some nice parts to that too!
What else can I tell you?
I love animals, all kinds. I am almost 3 years plant-based (been vegetarian since I was 12, then made the somewhat daunting crossover to being vegan). I love cooking, and when we first became vegan here in Vietnam, it was still a relatively new thing so it forced us to be creative as we couldn’t just go to a shop and buy vegan cheese or butter, they didn’t exist.
I keep accidentally rescuing cats; we’re up to a solid three at the moment, our estate agent has kindly given up on the one cat rule… People say I am a mad cat woman, but it’s more that it happens to be cats that I found. If it had been goats, or pigs, or peacocks that were in need, they would have come home with me too! It’s harder for me not to save things, and sadly there are a lot of things that need saving here!
I co-founded a Roller Derby league in the UK called the Dolly Rockit Rollers and skated with them for seven years, it took me all over the world, it was some of the best times of my life, but also some of the worse because there is a lot of passion in this sport, and you often find yourself so immersed in it that you forget there is anything else. I missed it terribly when I moved to Vietnam, but a couple of months ago some other skaters moved here, and I strapped my skates on for the first time in 4 years and it’s like I never stopped.
I am learning to surf. I am not very good, but I don’t care. The surf in Vietnam is rubbish so I SUP here, mainly up and down the Saigon river like a crazy person, occasionally I head out to the mangroves or a lake. It’s good for my brain, to get some peace, to just be.
I like to ride my bicycle through the chaos of the traffic to and from work every day, it makes me grin like a child. Everyone thinks I am nuts, I don’t really care what they think. If I don’t ride my bicycle each day it feels odd, I start to feel a bit sad.
Pilates has legitimately changed my life. It’s been about 18 months since I started and it’s the best thing I have ever done for my body and mind. I have been in several car accidents and also spent seven years bashing myself out of shape with Roller Derby, so my body was a mess, my posture was terrible and I suffered from horrific headaches. Until Pilates. You have got to find the things that are right for you, and when you do, you will know instinctively, this is definitely one of mine.
This is my scooter MOUSE, you have to say it like that, shouting. MOUSE is just a little Honda Cub, but he has a BIG personality and makes a lot of noise. He makes people smile, and that on the right is me — hi!
I have always liked to write. I started writing a long time ago when I first joined a gym; my exploits and general clumsiness proved to be very entertaining to people. I am glad that my disasters so often make others smile, then they were not in vain!
I wish I got to write more, but my job is pretty demanding and it can be hard to find the time. I only discovered medium quite recently, I was late to the party as I so often am. What I have found to be really special is how supportive everyone is of one another, I love that, I also appreciate being able to write about anything I want. I have never been the kind of person you can just shove in a box, so this suits me very well!
Thanks, Quy Ma for inviting me to be a part of this lovely project — and thank you for your kind and supportive words.
That is me, thanks for reading.
Here are some of my favourites from funny to food and everything in between!